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Hey, Answerman!

by Brian Hanson,

Glory praise, Hallelujah! Thanks to the gracious graciousness of Zac and everyone at ANN, I'm saved from the dank well of anime-related obsolescence and am here to welcome you to a jam-packed, incredibly exciting and entirely possibly unhealthily interesting week of Hey Answerman! Wherein I answer questions, crack wise, desperately treading carefully so as not to collapse the tenderly-formed house of cards that is one of the longest-running columns on this site. For those of you who might be unfamiliar, my name is Brian Hanson! Formerly of The Click and the houses of doting old widows foolish enough to entrust me with their money before it is blown entirely on first edition Ayn Rand books and Anne Geddes prints. But enough about me, let's talk about you. Or rather, your questions.

Oh, and about the banner - we're still tinkering with it, so consider it a temporary placeholder.

Over the past couple of years I've been a part of both Western comic and anime/manga fandom. I've noticed, however, that while comic fans seem generally accepting of anime/manga (having sections for it in magazines, at forums, etc), anime fandom does not seem so accepting of Western comics. Obviously there are exceptions to every rule, but while most comic fans I have encountered seem to express an interest in both mediums (or have at least tried both), I've noticed many anime fans declaring their dislike of Western comics and their 'musclebound superheroes' (there's more than that, guys!), and quite a few say that they have never even tried comics, but dislike them anyway. Do you have any ideas as to why this may be? Am I simply hanging out in all the wrong places?

Nah, I really don't think this argument holds water whatsoever. In fact, I'd say the opposite is truer than anything; I've met many an ardent, hardened comic book geek and aficionado who think manga and anime are "for girls" or "virgin losers" or "people who suck, like Brian Hanson."

But really, we need to stop the nerd-on-nerd hate. In my own personal utopia, people will be able to like what they friggin' like so long as it doesn't exploit anybody in any harmful way and just be cool with each other. Star Trek geeks will hobnob with Legend of Zelda cosplayers while professional Magic: The Gathering players mix drinks and World of Warcraft addicts discuss philosophy and talk about how overrated Andy Warhol is with people who have Masters Degrees in Film Studies. Life, unfortunately, is not so kind, as every lousy nerd faction is eager to look down their hairy, pimpled nose upon those it deems MORE socially awkward, MORE prone to attract losers and weirdoes, and for some reason don't belong to be mentioned in the same artistic echelon as their own hallowed nerd endeavors.

Basically, you're hanging around some pretty insecure people. I mean it should be obvious that I'm an anime fan, but two of my favorite books ever are the graphic novels "Blankets" by Craig Thompson and Jeff Smith's "Bone" series, and I recommend those to everyone I know. And, in the interest of full disclosure, yes, I think that "musclebound superheroes" are completely uninteresting, and yet I live with a guy who I'm fairly certain is the last surviving individual who still buys and reads and ENJOYS current Superman comics. But that obviously doesn't mean my mind is completely closed to the idea of reading them; aside from the obvious choice of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, my roommate more than regularly tosses me a few issues from a run of Batman or The Punisher or whatever.

By and large, anybody all too willing to denigrate somebody's choice of nerd literature to elevate their own has issues far beyond which comics and cartoons produced on which continent are "better" and should either be avoided or reformed, so as to join the rest of rational society. Manga and anime and comics and graphic novels are different mediums with different genres unto themselves that are at once unifiable and yet completely different from one another, and no group of nerd is better than any other group of nerd.

Except for maybe furries. But let's not go there.

At the bookstore, is it acceptable for me to kick the folks who sit in the middle of the manga aisle reading, but not buying, the books?  If so, how hard of a kick is acceptable in polite society?

By and large, yes. The forcitude of the kick (heretofore referred to as the "Doofus Kick" in that you are in fact kicking Doofuses) can be measured triangularly from the Doofusness of the individual. Doofusness can be measured in a variety of ways, mainly focusing on the individuals' peculiar Hot Topic-branded clothing and their propensity for muttering 4chan-related catchphrases.

Anyway. My day job, coincidentally enough, is working as a supervisor for a large chain bookstore, so daily run-ins with the "Manga kids" as the rest of the staff calls them is quite common. By and large, though, they're just kids - incredibly nerdy, nebbish, and awkward kids at that, who are really just looking for a place to hang out amongst their friends and other people with a common interest. If they're in your way, just ask them to move, because they'll probably do it, usually politely. If they cop an attitude, THEN go for the kicking, because then they've clearly asked for it.

Funny story: one group of obnoxious teenagers clogging our manga aisles one night came to be such a problem that we had two separate customer complaints. One of my staff calmly asked them to make some room not once, but twice. I walked over to deal with it, when I was stopped by a nice old lady looking for a fiction book located right behind a row of about five or six lounging mallrat kids. So, I stepped back a bit, and with all my former Middle School track team skills, dashed and long-jumped over a row of a half-dozen stunned and bewildered teenagers. And did so again on my way back, with the nice old lady's hardcover copy of an Isabel Allende book. The lady got her book, started bursting up in laughter, while the kids glared at me and muttered "...uh..." before packing up their things and leaving, all the while I'm smiling with an immensely snarky grin on my face. (WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT AT HOME. LEAVE LONG-JUMPING OVER TEENAGERS TO PROFESSIONAL BOOKSTORE EMPLOYEES AND INTERNET COLUMNISTS ONLY.)

I live in England and every time you guys announce some kind of new streaming service i can't watch it because of where I live. Why is that?!

Aside from the obvious answer, which is that we're America and we're the best and do whatever we want, so just sit there with your Earl Grey and your Manchester United jersey and your disgusting toffee cake while weeping openly, the answer is thus.

Technology always exists quite a few steps ahead of international law, and streaming video is definitely a part of that. It provided a brand new content delivery system and infrastructure for entertainment that literally every major entertainment provider was unaware of, and therefore unable to control. I'd imagine that one of the most pitiable of all existences in the world is that of a YouTube moderator; aside from perhaps the occasional instance of viewing pornography before it gets deleted, I probably couldn't sleep at night if I knew I'd wake up to another day of sweeping away camcorded clips of Family Guy and South Park, and episodes of InuYasha subtitled into Dutch. Which is straying incredibly far from the point, but basically what companies that own these properties have done is create their own competing video sites - from which we have Joost and Hulu and the like.

And, just like how we have Region locks in DVDs and video games that prevent you from buying things from all around the globe, access to these sites is restricted in non-North American parts of the globe. It's all about controlling and licensing properties, to ensure that all the hand-wringers across the globe get their fair cut and don't end up feeling left out when some enterprising British individual wants to stream Peach Girl online but doesn't see the point in it when all of his potential subscribers simply watch it on Hulu from the United States. Not to say that there aren't ways around that, of course, but I won't go into that here. I'd like to not be assassinated by a Viz Media representative when I walk to my mailbox in my underpants.

Not to mention, for example, that certain companies like Funimation don't even have a UK subsidiary, with companies like Manga UK handling some of their releases. Basically, international licensing is a big hairy nasty monster that gets in between all you fine English-speaking folks living outside of the US and legit, free streaming anime episodes and it's a really complicated thing, so I asked our Director of New Media (and resident licensing guy), Justin Sevakis, to chime in on it:

"There are actually good reasons for licensors to keep rights divided up by territory. Most income for anime still comes from good ol' fashioned DVDs. That goes through local DVD companies like FUNimation and Bandai USA, and those companies do all the important things like subtitle production, dubbing, marketing and distribution -- things that Japanese companies that don't know local customs and fan expectations (not to mention the quirks of the local media distribution market) have a hard time getting right. These local companies need to be involved in order for the licensor to have any hope of making substantial money overseas.

The value for those companies -- the FUNimations, the Madman Entertainments, the Manga UKs -- in spending a big chunk of change for rights in their slice of the world is that they have those rights exclusively. After all, if they're not the only ones with the right to distribute Ultimate Mop Daisuke GX or whatever, it's pretty unlikely they'd spend the money on the rights, the dubbing, the subtitling, the authoring and compression, etc. (After all, if there are official ways to get the show without them, who's to say anybody will buy THEIR product?) Offering internet streaming to those areas effectively means that they'll never sell the full show rights to that territory, and right now the money from internet streaming doesn't even come close to making up the difference. When you realize that many parts of Europe still regularly show anime on television, you realize that there's a lot to give up if a licensor is going to legally make their anime available for worldwide streaming.

But you can't stop progress, and sooner or later these companies will have to start taking big chances on internet distribution as other methods slowly fade into oblivion. With media companies everywhere hurting for money as the economy takes a dump, you can expect to see a few of them dipping a toe into the worldwide internet rights market in the near future. Just don't expect the historically conservative  Japanese to be the first ones cannon-balling into that pool."

Whew. Thanks Justin!

If this were any other Hey, Answerman! column, this space would be dedicated to poorly-written passages about how I'm a dork or a loser and my snippy response coupled with photos of cuddly animals. Since this is my first go as the new Answerman, I really don't have any email written in broken English about how I suck, at least addressed to me personally. But why stop with the animals?

For next week, we're doing a special "Hey, Answerpets!" edition, if you follow my drift, so send in YOUR pictures of your pets! It'll be like e-mailing your grandma, except to a guy you don't know on an anime website!

This is Norm. He is old enough to see R-rated movies and buy cigarettes and pornography. He meows like a pirate, if pirates meowed.

Send photos of your pets to: answerman (at) animenewsnetwork dot com.

Here's the question leftover from last time:

From Emma and Kristina:

The most obnoxious, irritating, and otherwise downright dislikeable anime heroine ever is Akane Tendou from Ranma 1/2. She has an unreasonable/annoying dislike for all men, and takes out her aggressions on Ranma when he hasn't done anything wrong. She always blames Ranma for everything that goes wrong, even when it's her own fault, and refuses to let him explain the situation. As much as the show tries to pass that off as love, it's not. She accepted him just fine when she thought he was a girl, then hated him the second she found out he was a boy. She is too rash and needs to take an anger management class. Also, every male character automatically loves her without having any reason to, and even when she attacks them they still like her, which makes her very Mary-Sue-ish. All these things are very irritating, and contribute to her obnoxiousness.

From Rednal:

I want to say Makoto Ito (of School Days), and up until the current anime season started, I would have. However, a more recent show has usurped the place of having the protagonist that I dislike the most. Takumi Nishijō, of Chaos;Head, is like a combination of Makoto and Shinji Ikari (Evangalion), with any small redeeming features (pretend they exist) removed and the fusion of their worst parts creating a more horrific entity that is exponentially more awful. A fair part of this has to do with the fact that Takumi is apparently aware of the fact that he has delusions. On a regular basis, a Magical Girl-type character appears beside him and tells him to do things like cheer up. How messed up do you have to be to have your own hallucinations telling you to not worry that you're hallucinating? Granted, if I were still watching this series, I might know the answer to that, but I just couldn't stand the guy. Now, mind you, it isn't the fact that he's messed up that bothers me. That stuff is actually very easy to stomach if you're relaxed. What bothered me was that he never seemed to be interested in getting better. He knew he had a problem, but did nothing to try and fix it. In a very rare situation for me, I actually stopped watching a series I had started. Though I may start watching it again simply because while I hate Takumi as a person, I think that he's a very interesting character.

From Freeone3000:

Lelouch Lamparogue, with his disregard for human life, safety, the feelings of others, qualifies for this list. Light Yagami, for similar reasons. Similar character concept in any event.

Shinji of Evangelion fame also qualifies. "I don't WANT to pilot the giant robot! I don't WANT to save Tokyo! I have daddy issues!" always seems to come out more whiny than angstful. This, plus the fact that he's featured prominantly in every episode and must never run away or make a concrete decision solidifies him a place on this list.

Akane-iro ni Someru Saka. Where does one even START. Minato, because of her total subservience. Yuuhi, because of her complete uselessness and ignorance. Jun'ichi crosses into complete pervert territory four or five times, which is fine, and his friend doesn't help, which is okay too, but it seems like he wouldn't be able to survive without his sister's constant guidance. Then there's the other characters, which have not have had enough time to properly grate on the intellect, with the exception of Ayanokouji. Princess curls. Noblewoman's laugh. Complete superiority complex. Not even subtle about it. Unfortunate. This series would have been so much better if it was.. better.

Naruto has Naruto. Cause real ninjas wear orange. Or not.

Meg from Burst Angel. So, she's stupid, useless, gets kidnapped every episode, and has a thing for the strong silent type, which she must protest loudly while showing amounts of cleavage directly porportional to episode number. "Jo!" is right up there with "dattebayo" and "I mustn't run away".

But the all time winner is Makoto from School Days. Dear lord, man, choose a girl. Really. There's a nice, healthy sex drive, which is doing it with your best friend when your girlfriend doesn't want to. Okay. Fine. Then there's every single living female within a five mile radius, sometimes three at a time. No. When the 'bad ending' turns out funny instead of creepy, you know the main character is a total manwhore.

From Gina Ventola:

The most annoying heroine to me would be Haruhi Suzuyima.  I heard about what a hit the show was and considered checking it out, but I can't stand the sight of her perky smile or handle that little dance they do.  Okay, so maybe I'm not giving her a chance, but just what I know of her so far has driven me away from the series.  And to think she might even be God.

From Dillon Cote:

I have been waiting for this question my whole life. Thank you.
It's everyones favourite safety orange jumpsuit-clad, ramen obsessed, mildly retarded, attention deficit ninja, Naruto! Believe it!
His catch phrase doesn't make any sense. (Believe what? All you said was you like ramen. We already know that.) His motives are laughably generic, all he wants is to be more powerful. And he's the only character in the series who didn't work for his power. He spent his entire school life slacking off while everyone else was training, and the only reason he keeps up with everyone now (it says this right in the series) is because he had massive Chakra stores from birth.
He is constantly displayed as the "comedic relief/idiot" of the series, and that is not how you build a strong lead character. The lead character should be smart, in control, and strong-willed. (and if he's not, at least make that the point of the show) Naruto is none of these things, and that is just one of many reasons I won't watch that show.

From BJ Waters:

I'm probably going to get a bunch hate for this, but I'm probably not alone in hating our party of heroes in InuYasha.  People may love the series as a classic, but I think it's terrible, and one of the reasons is our pair of pathetic love triangles who never bother to get over each other (or progress the plot for that matter).  InuYasha will never decide between the two, Miroku will never stop his lechery, and neither Kagome nor Sango will never stop forgiving them or never try to improve or alter their relationship.  Their dialoge and actions are horribly predictable and only seem to drag out the storyline and page count.  Yeah, I'm talking about the manga!

Now, I must admit I haven't seen the end of the series (which has finally finished, presumably an act of God or something), because it's Rumiko Takahashi, I'm not holding my breath, especially how Ranma ended (what a waste).

Oh, and I'd drop C-Ko off a cliff.

From Marcelo Gomes:

Three Words: Jomy Marquis Shin (from Toward the Terra).

Jomy lives his life normally believing that he's normal, the world is happy and there are no problems! But then he finds out that he is part of a super-intelligent race called the Mu, and that he was chosen to become the new leader of such race, which by its turn is really, really hated by everyone in the world-that-oh-he-believed-it-was-happy. And what does he do? Whines. For some 50 minutes straight. It would be fine if, after some 2 episodes of whining, he got better, but he got worse: he stopped whining and became the leader of the Mu, but through 3 and more years (of leadership experience and traveling in space) he makes a lot of attempts to befriend the Mu with the humans. And he makes matters worse by putting many human lifes in danger and increasing its anger towards the Mu. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

In a general view, there are too many problems with Jomy. He never seem to make anything right - he just messes things up again and again and again, by accidentaly putting lifes in danger (in completely avoidable ways) and making poor choices for the survival issues of his race (again, completely easy to solve). He almost never makes a decision by himself (he almost always asks someone else's opinion and goes 'wow, that's a great idea! I will go along with it'), and always makes terrible choices (since the Mu are the super-intelligent race, I suppose it's wrong that we, the viewers, have better ideas than the leader of such race). Makes us wonder if Soldier Blue, the previous leader, was really sure of what he was doing when he chose Jomy, because that one is a terrible, terrible leader. He is very unlikeable, too emotionally unstable (kinda like Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion), and in a general look, too weak to be a leader. And he doesn't get any stronger.

Finally, from Sadiyyah:

When you asked your question this week, one person immediately came to mind for me: Momo Adachi from Peach Girl.  I hated this character from the moment she spoke about hating how dark her skin was.  Really, Momo? You don't think that's kind of offensive to us brown-skinned folk?  Worst of all, she thought she had to make her skin lighter for the guy she liked to like her back.  It's a horrible message for many reasons: not only is dark skin ugly, women should conform to a man's (alleged) standard of beauty, racist or not.  The fact that both the anime and manga were made in the past ten years makes me sad inside.  I guess I'll never get a boyfriend because I'm black.

Racism aside, Momo has got to be the dumbest fictional character I've ever seen.  She's upset that no one ever sees through Sae's schemes against her, and is thankful that Kairi does.  But only thankful enough to fall for the same schemes that Ryo pulls on Kairi.  You would think from experience she'd be able to spot these tricks. Kairi could.  But no, she believes Ryo. 

She switches back and forth between Toji and Kairi depending on which one is available, she agrees to be Kairi's second choice when he can't choose between her and Misao, and it all just adds up to too much indecision and low self-esteem in one person. There was no moment in Peach Girl where I wasn't thinking, "You have got to be kidding me...Really?"  Watching her was painful, including the end where she found love after everything that happened. Ugh. Seriously, if she just said "You know what? My skin tone is beautiful!" I would've forgiven all the contrived drama of the show.  Even the part where Kairi takes her for a makeover, the message is that she is pretty despite her color.  That is the biggest bone I have to pick.

And now here's this week's question:

Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.

Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I hve so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.

* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.

And that wraps things up for my inaugural Answerman! Please be gentle if my audacity of hope in this transitionary period is little rough, but please comment back in the forums and discuss amongst yourselves what potentially great or potentially terrible things my innate perspective brings to the monolith that is Hey Answerman! I will be back next week, probably a little more used to the flow of everything. Have a good week, everyone!

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